On August 23rd, 2014, more than 7,500 people from 27 countries came together to protest plans for opencast brown coal (lignite) mining. The protestors spread out to form a human chain between Kerkwitz, Germany to Grabice, Poland. These two 700-year-old villages with a total population of approximately 6000 are feared to be in danger of evacuation to make way for brown coal mine expansion plans.
The peaceful protestors’ human chain extended to approximately 8 kilometres long. Participants included Greenpeace Poland and Germany’s opposition green party. Some crossed the Neisse River, which serves as a border for Germany and Poland, spelling out “STOP KHOLE (stop coal)” in large red letters while others donned orange tape with the words “Anti-coal chain. Coming together for an energy revolution”.
Opponents of the coal expansion along the Germany-Poland border believe that pursuing these plans will undermine current climate change measures. Greenpeace UK climate campaigner Emma Gibson stated that if our inaction continues, political leaders’ pledges to fight climate change are “doomed to remain empty words”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel who had previously stated that lignite was “the black gold” that would support unstable renewable energy generation (23% of Germany’s energy mix), was a key target of this protest.
This movement is only part of a larger, global movement against the dirty harmful effects of coal as an energy source. While a number of countries have taken a stand against coal, notable holdouts include Germany and Japan whose leaders seem adamant in continuing their overseas coal investments and domestic usage. As pressure from locals and civil society mounts, one wonders how much longer it will be before we quit coal for good.
Protesters against brown coal form human chain Daily Mail, August 23rd, 2014 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-2732634/Protesters-against-brown-coal-form-human-chain.html
Dirtiest fuel threatens 700-year-old villages in Europe Bloomberg, August 6th, 2014
Human chain to protest coal mining in Germany and Poland Responding to Climate Change, August 22nd, 2014